Did you know that in Chinese, how you pronounce a tone is sometimes determined by the syllable that comes after it? Yeah, a whole new level of complicated. But that’s okay! We’re going to look at it together.
mind that when writing in pinyin, the tone mark should not normally be
changed. I’m just doing it here for clarity. Here are the rules:
When followed by a 4th tone, 不 (bù) changes to 2nd tone (bú). Example: 不是 bú shì; 不对 bú duì
When followed by a 4th tone, 一 (yī) changes to 2nd tone (yí). When followed by any other tone, 一 (yī) changes to 4th tone (yì). Example: 一个 yígè; 一样 yíyàng
一 (yī) appears as a number in a series, larger number, address, or
date, it is pronounced without the tone change (regular first tone “yī”)
Example: 一 二 三 四 五 yī èr sān sì wǔ; 第 一 个 dì yī ge
a 3rd tone (such as “yě”) is followed by another 3rd tone in a group,
the first 3rd tone changes to a 2nd tone (such as “yé”). Ex: 你好 níhǎo; 可以 kéyǐ
That’s it! Those are the four rules. They can be difficult to remember at times, but they’re important. Try this exercise to practice.
The best way to get help with pronunciation is to work with a teacher.
A teacher will be able to correct any problems with how your speaking
and recognize better when you’re breaking the rules. Good luck!
When I worked at the bike shop in college, every Saturday we would call over to China 1 in the strip mall across the street to order their lunch special. The woman who owned it would pick up the phone and simply grunt into the receiver, which was our queue to recite our order. And no matter what kind or quantity of food we asked for, the reply was always the same: “Ten minute.” *Click*
I often complain that there’s no place to get real American-style Chinese food in the UAE. Sure, there’s PF Chang’s, and Panda Express if I want to drive three hours, but it’s not the same. I need to go to a burnt-out strip mall. I need to glance at sun-faded pictures of misspelled dishes that no self-respecting Chinese person would be caught dead eating. I need my order taken by a twelve-year-old and shouted back to his parents in another language. I need my food given to me suspiciously fast, with a wink and an extra handful of fortune cookies.
And that’s what I finally got when I went back to the China 1 in Casselberry this week. I got my General Tso’s combo and my fortune about friendship. I got grunted at by an elderly Chinese woman. The $5 lunch special was now $6.19 and the faux-crabmeat rangoons were nowhere to be seen, but the taste was unmistakable. We have plenty of Mainland Chinese restaurants in the UAE, but you just can’t get this taste anywhere but the US.
And then as I sat down to eat it, I read that the Taiwanese creator of the dish died that day. Age 98. His recipe was taken from him in the ‘70s, bastardised and modified to suit American tastes, and helped cement Chinese take-out as an American institution, changing the country’s culture just as much it was changed. And if that’s not a representation of American culture, I can’t tell you what is.